Karen and I have a great marriage and I hope you do too or will one day. Marriage should be an institution that brings joy and life to our lives. Instead, it has an unacceptably high failure rate. Young people look at the wreckage strewn across the social landscape and the odds scare them. What is to be done? How do we help them discover joy in marriage?
The good news is, it’s not for a lack of resources that young people struggle. A good place to start is with those resources that have established some kind of track record.
I like marriagebuilders.com. It is a practical and interactive site. It introduces you to the idea that both parties must work on their individual stuff if they are to be happy together. If one or both people are needy, they will inevitably seek to fulfill their needs through their partner, resulting in dysfunction and wounding.
The site’s author, Dr. Willard Harley, has developed a concept he calls “the Love Bank” that is helpful in diagnosing the dysfunctional aspects of a relationship. He has compiled a test called, “the LoveBuster’s test” that does this. We often fall into patterns and habits that tax and wound our partners as we make more withdrawals than deposits. The Love Busters test addresses one of the most troubling factors in many relationships – a lack of objectivity. With just two people in a relationship, who determines who’s right and who’s wrong?
The foundational principle undergirding the Love Bank is that we need to give more than we get. We need to bring more to the table than we require. What this means is that if you’re a fundamentally needy person (think Bob in “What About Bob”) who requires more than you’re able to give, you should not get married. You will inevitably capsize your marriage relationship.
Many people are able to peacefully co-exist in their marriage, establishing a utilitarian relationship where there is neither give nor take, but a benign parallel living. This is a sad, ghoulish way to go through life. You see it in the way a lot of older couples silently sit through lunch together at restaurants. They’re not so much sharing life as they are surviving it, in each other’s space, but not one another’s presence.
Life wasn’t meant to be survived but celebrated. You may doubt the possibility of getting there if you’ve never learned the habit of being a giver, but many people have unlearned their broken behavior and have struggled to a place of stability and even arrived at the possibility of marital bliss.*
*If you’re one who is desperate to start on a journey toward this possibility, let me say, there is no ready-made road map. But here’s a clue that can get you going: It begins by, like Pinocchio, a deep hunger to “become a real boy.” This hunger will fuel your journey to the truth of what God really thinks about you. It will lead you to an abandonment of your dysfunctional false self and a process of finding your true identity (for more on that process, read these blogs). From that solid ground, you will bring all you as an individual need to build a marriage that continually breathes life into your spirit.